Alex Chilton – A Cult Hero Remembered

Sad news today – Alex Chilton, singer, songwriter and guitarist with Big Star and The Box Tops, and as a solo artist, passed away yesterday (March 17) aged 59.

Never a ‘big star’ as such, due in part to his wilfully destructive streak and sometimes perverse sabotage of his own songs, he was a cult hero of the highest order, beloved by a great number of music fans and artists, including Teenage Fanclub, R.E.M., The Replacements and Wilco.

Most people cite ‘#1 Record’ as the quintessential Big Star album but, for me, its follow-ups, ‘Radio City’ and ‘Third/Sister Lovers’, are the classics. Freed from the constraints of co-writing and co-fronting the band with the departed Chris Bell, Chilton was the sole creative force, and produced a wealth of dark, twisted, but lush, gems. His guitar playing was mercurial but never showy and his voice was one of the most versatile in rock.

For all his genius, though, one thing Alex Chilton wasn’t was a good judge of his own music – “I’m constantly surprised that people fall for Big Star the way they do…” he said in 1992. “People say Big Star made some of the best rock ‘n’ roll albums ever. And I say they’re wrong.”

Here are a few songs to remember him by. Plus, scroll down to stream a more in-depth Alex Chilton playlist.

The Box Tops, ‘The Letter’

Big Star, ‘Nightime’

Big Star, ‘September Gurls’

Big Star, ‘Thank You Friends’